Commercialisation: Halloween

A couple of posts ago I hinted at my rage at Halloween having become a commercial sham and an excuse for people to dress up in a fashion that is in no way relevant to anything, get shitfaced and behave disgustingly (damn I’m transforming into a grumpy old Scotswoman at rapid pace here).

I say this as if I have some sort of aversion to getting drunk and behaving badly – I don’t, I do this all the time. My revulsion is at something once culturally significant being turned upside down and its insides squeezed out for commercial gain, to the point where it really does mean nothing to the ignorant souls donning their ‘pirate wench’ and ‘zombie cowboy’ outfits, other than another excuse (as if they needed one) for a night of debauch.

There’re two aspects that bother me, one being the Americanisation. When I was little (cue grumpy old woman), there was no such thing as ‘trick or treating’. Halloween/All Saints Eve/Samhain, whichever name you care to give it, religious slant or otherwise, was a pagan, Celtic festival celebrating the end of the harvest season and the commencement of the dark half. It is firmly rooted in Scottish heritage.

 

Guisers on the Isle of Uist [image: angusmcphee.blogspot.co.uk]

‘Guising’ would see you go round your neighbours with your wee pals in your wee witch or warlock costume, tell a joke, a ghost story, or sing a wee song, and get a sweetie or a few pence in return. The custom originates from the belief that dressing your children to blend in with the evil spirits abroad on the Eve of the Hallows would protect them, and it was considered prudent to give them small gifts to help ward off ill will from the souls of the dead.

 

Kiss front man Alice Cooper, who was disappointed with the Halloween celebrations growing up in the US [image: nndb.com]

The Americans in their true, naïve, culture-crushing style, have taken away any element of lore and replaced it with, well, that great American virtue – greed. As Alice Cooper, who now always celebrates the date in the UK, said of Halloween growing up in the States – “It was all about the candy”. This is the attitude that the global corporatisation of traditional events and holidays has succeeded in supplanting over here in the years since I grew up.

And it was turnips, not pumpkins…

 

Proper neep lanterns [image: blog.makezine.com]

The infamous harlotty Halloween costume which has now become the norm has also come to grate on me. That other renowned American virtue, vanity, comes to mind. It goes beyond vanity though. We all want to dress to look our best (I shall be doing so at a Halloween-themed cabaret night tomorrow), but Halloween outfits for women have transgressed into the downright degrading. A friend’s work colleague was apparently dressing this year as a ‘slutty skeleton’. A slutty skeleton. I could certainly see that being thrown as an insult at some of the sights you see on a Saturday night, but actually – a slutty skeleton. I have not words…

 

Oh yes, it really exists [image: thebroccolihut.com]

This has even less to do with Halloween than trick or treating, and is in fact part of a wider trend of sexism, pornification, and the division of genders that is happening across the board in the West, and which has been on my mind a lot over the last year but is so huge that I’m unsure where to even begin writing about it. I’ll leave that one at that for the moment…

The state of what Halloween is fast becoming is only one facet in the list of traditions and festivals that have been slaughtered by a market-driven culture. With Christmas marketing having begun before Halloween was even over this year, expect a follow-up rant soon…

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2 comments
  1. kibbled said:

    You brought back happy memories of guising with my carved turnip. None of that pumpkin nonsense.

    How times change.

    • Treacle scones and dookin for apples too. And always somebody’s ma who stuck grapes on cocktail sticks and called them eyeballs…

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